Despite the preference of certain national delegations not to dwell on it, immigration is written into the European Council's conclusions. The subject was not the focus of debate by the 28 on 19-20 December 2013 in Brussels, but it will be under the Greek EU Council Presidency, starting on 1 January 2014. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso pointed out in this connection the proposals made by the executive two months after the sinking of a refugee boat that killed more than 360 people off the coast of Lampedusa in early October.

"Through our Mediterranean task force, we recommended 38 concrete measures and 50 million in support [of which 30 million for Italy]. Their implementation will be decisive," he told the press after the meeting, on 20 December.

Like the states, Barroso emphasised the urgency of "addressing the causes of immigration" by cooperating with the countries of transit (Algeria, Morocco, Egypt and Libya) and fighting human trafficking, smuggling and organised crime. Ideally, Europeans - in particular France and Greece, which stress this objective - should reach agreements with the countries to set up patrols close to their shores and to prevent the departure of migrants' boats, based on what Spain and Morocco have done. That goal is not feasible today for Libya, which lacks a central state and where human smugglers are rampant. The idea is also to launch information campaigns in the countries of origin and transit on the dangers of such crossings, to strengthen the EU's Frontex agency and to do more to resettle refugees in Europe.

According to a French diplomatic source, Germany, under the impetus of its new CDU-SPD coalition, may make immigration and asylum a European priority, as will the Greek Presidency from 1 January.


Immigration is a very touchy subject as the May 2014 European elections approach. But the...

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